2022 saw its fair share of flagship Android phones: the Pixel 7 Pro, Galaxy S22 Ultra, Galaxy Z Fold 4, and the OnePlus 10T 5G, to name a few. But none of them came close to achieving the levels of hype seen by the Nothing Phone (1), the first phone from Nothing Technology Limited and the brainchild of OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei.
The phone was originally launched only in a few select countries, mostly in Europe and Asia. US residents can now finally purchase the Nothing Phone (1) courtesy of a peculiar beta program, but is it worth it? Here’s what you need to know before committing.
Is the Beta Worth the Cost of Admission?
While it looks like a good deal in the US, you need to understand exactly what you’re buying. At first glance, it seems like you’re purchasing a Nothing Phone (1) at $299. But you’re actually paying to enter Nothing’s Android 13 beta program and effectively getting a Nothing Phone (1) (with 128GB of flash storage) for free. It’s the same phone that’s available internationally.
But here’s the catch. Because you’re purchasing a membership to enter the Android 13 beta program rather than specifically buying the phone outright, your purchase does not include any warranty or after-sales service for the device.
You have 14 days from the date of purchase to cancel your membership and get a refund. But if you are inquiring about a refund because you accidentally damaged your phone, no dice: they won’t honor the refund (though if you receive a damaged device, they will replace it).
Though the Nothing Phone (1) is a head-turner, it doesn’t play well with major US carriers. Below are the limitations you can expect for each carrier.
- AT&T: 5G is not supported; 4G and 3G are supported; VoLTE and VoWifi don’t work.
- T-Mobile: 3G, 4G, and 5G are supported, though you won’t find support for all 5G bands.
- Verizon: 5G and CDMA aren’t supported; 4G is supported.
The phone doesn’t support CDMA networks at all. And a side note for Verizon customers: you will need to contact Verizon customer service and add the Nothing Phone (1)’s IMEI to the company’s database.
Because you are using a beta version of Android 13, some apps may not function properly. You really have no idea what experience you’re going to get, and for some, that may be part of the fun. But if your goal is to acquire a head-turning phone that’s guaranteed to work as your new daily driver, prepare for disappointment.
Ultimately, the caveats feel like too much trouble for a middle-of-the-road phone. We reviewed the Nothing Phone (1) in July 2022 and found that, even though the phone has some forward-thinking ideas that we could definitely see implemented into future devices, it was no more special than any other mid-range device.
Publications like Digital Trends and Know Your Mobile also complained about problems with the Nothing Phone (1) when it was released internationally in 2022, such as the wide-angle camera and auto-rotate not functioning properly, the camera app randomly opening, Google Pay woes, and dead pixels on the screen.
How Do You Enter the Beta Program?
If you still want to test drive the Nothing Phone (1) in the US, visit the Nothing OS 1.5 Beta Membership page. Make your purchase, then either wait for Nothing to send an email detailing how to register for the Android 13 beta or enroll via a form on Nothing’s FAQ page. When you sign up, you also get a Nothing Community Black Dot NFT. That’s…rad?
After purchasing a membership, you can expect to receive your new phone within 5-7 days. You’ll need to make your purchase by June 30, 2022, as that is when the beta program ends. Because the phone is effectively free, you get to keep it once the program ends, and you’ll be able to upgrade to the final version of Android 13.
Keep in mind that entering the beta program doesn’t mean that you get to beta test additional products or services. This is only for beta testing Android 13 on the Nothing Phone (1).
Nothing Phone (1)’s US Beta Program Offers No Guarantees
Plopping down $299 for a Nothing Phone (1) isn’t like buying a new phone on Amazon: you may or may not have a positive experience. If you have $299 to spare and want to try out one of 2022’s most unique phones, go for it. There are worse ways to spend your money. But check your expectations at the door.